Goodwill is one of the most valuable commodities in today’s business world—not in the least because it seems to be in such short supply these days. Consumers, millennials especially, have grown cynical. They’re tired of dealing with brands that are only interested in selling their products, tired of being treated as walking wallets, and of having ineffective, irrelevant advertisements shoved in their faces wherever they go. They’re tired of businesses whose modus operandi seems to be picking on the little guy and laughing all the way to the bank and tired of inauthentic, socially-irresponsible enterprises.
What they want—or rather, demand—is authenticity. They want to work with, and for, organizations that show they care—brands that have a strong corporate social responsibility posture.
You’re probably aware of all this, though. You know running an ethical, responsible business is more valuable to you than even the most intensive advertising campaign. And you probably have some idea of how to put your ideas about corporate social responsibility into practice.
Let me stop you there. While it’s certainly possible for you to use your corporate resources to host a fundraiser, charity drive, or relief mission all on your own, it’s not exactly an efficient use of your time or money. What you should do instead is find a nonprofit that works closely with your industry.
By establishing a strong bond with such an organization, you’ve everything to gain—and nothing to lose.
“There is nothing in business today that provides as much economic and social benefit, on as many levels, to as many stakeholders, as a strategic partnership between any combination of the nonprofit, for-profit, education and government sectors when focused on the greater good,” explains strategic partnership expert and founder of Cause Marketing Bruce Burtch. “Nothing else comes even close.”
Working together with a nonprofit demonstrates to consumers that you’re interested in doing more than just talking about changing the world. It shows that you’re willing to help an organization wholly dedicated to doing good by providing it with more resources and greater reach. It lets you do well by doing good—and the value of that to your corporate social responsibility directive cannot be understated.
Mind you, a strategic partnership with a nonprofit won’t be entirely smooth sailing. It requires you to do more than reach out with a common goal in mind. There’s a lot of stuff you’ll need to account for, and a lot of roadblocks you’ll need to overcome.
To name just a few:
- What will each side of the partnership contribute?Your corporation will likely bear the brunt of costs in the partnership, but many charities can offer unique stuff - they might have pre-established relationships with certain vendors, for example, or access to venues you might otherwise be unable to book.
- How does this partnership relate to your brand?Your business’s values are more important than your products in this case. Compare your own mission statement with that of a charity you’re thinking of supporting - look for common ground between the two. Look also at what charities your target demographic tends to support (and the charities your staff are interested in).
- How will you market your partnership? It’s all well and good to say you’ll go on Facebook or YouTube to spread the word about your partnership, but you need to think about what you’ll say. Show how your partnership can help the charity do its job better—you’re telling a story, not selling a product.
Let’s tie things off with an example of a plan that brings everything we’ve talked about together. In this example, our corporation is a major supplier and manufacturer of bottled water and sports drinks. Their Head of Corporate Social Responsibility comes across a charity that offers fresh drinking water to third-world nations and reaches out.
After a brief sit-down, they decide that the charity will provide volunteers, cover transportation costs, and help with social media outreach. The corporation, meanwhile, will help them establish infrastructure in a major city and use its marketing clout to bring in more donors and donations.
That’s just one example, of course. Your own organization will have a story all its own.
Don’t worry. If you go in with a clear head and a clear plan, you’ll do just fine. A story we look forward to hearing.
Curtis Gilbert is the owner and creative producer at p3 mediaworks, a full-service video production company in Chicago. As a company, they work on an initiative called "Profit Meets Purpose" in which they are seeking to align corporations with nonprofit organizations through shared video deliverables.